Freeze Mage and Murloc Paladin are the two top combo decks in current Hearthstone. Each of them has ample ways to stay alive, heal and remove minions. Not only that, but they both run a near-unstoppable finisher that especially punishes control or slow midrange. Both decks have their strengths, but they also have their weaknesses as well. To further explore that idea, this guide will break down both decks and study how Murloc Paladin can use healing and pressure to take down Jaina and her snowy plans.
Murloc Paladin is a combo deck, meaning that you are going to have to run its combo cards. There is no way around playing murlocs or a large amount of heals. However, there are also quite a few changes that you can make to the rest of the list. Currently, there are two popular versions of the combo Paladin. One of those versions attempts to stay alive through healing and taunts, while the other version plays more minions to a much more midrange-centric game. Each list is very good, and both can be played to great success. Choosing the specific build you want to run comes down to personal preference. To help you with this decision, two lists have been placed below.
When playing against Mage, it is always best to keep both versions (Tempo Mage and Freeze) in mind. However, you typically want to mulligan for Tempo. While you can always bounce back if you fall behind against Freeze, the same is not true of tempo. As such, it is a case of being better safe than sorry. You just want to find your early minions here, since they are good against both lists, and try to get board presence as fast as you can.
Cards to Keep
[card]Acolyte of Pain[/card]
[card]Solemn Vigil[/card] can be kept if you have a minion-heavy opening.
[card]Antique Healbot[/card] can be kept if you have a strong opening and the coin.
[card]Old Murk-Eye[/card] is a good keep with the coin.
[card]Keeper of Uldaman[/card] is a strong keep with a good opening and the coin.
[toc]How to Win[/toc]
You are going to win this game through aggression. Yes, you are a combo-control deck, but most of your minions (not to mention murlocs) play the midrange game very, very well. You can quickly build a board and push through damage when the opportunity presents itself. Even something like [card]Truesilver Champion[/card], which kills minions quite nicely, is eight damage for four mana. You do not to spend all of your resources going face, but sitting back and waiting for your combo doesn’t work against a deck with insurance like [card]Ice Block[/card].
Planning is another factor that goes a long way in this contest. Freeze Mage has a very set plan, which is set up [card]Ice Block[/card], get [card]Alexstrasza[/card] and then finish you off with burn. Always make a conscience choice each turn. While sometimes you can drop a minion for the body (such as [card]Aldor Peacekeeper[/card]) you need to save all of your healing and strategically use it during the late to stay alive.
One of the strangest parts about this game is how many dead cards you are going to have. Most of your deck is removal, and Freeze Mage runs very few minions. Their three big threats are [card]Emperor Thaurissan[/card], [card]Alexstrasza[/card] and [card]Archmage Antonidas[/card]. Though each of them get inherent value as soon as they are played, those are what you need to save your spot removal ([card]Keeper of Uldaman[/card]) or your [card]Equality[/card] for.
[toc]Early Game Strategy[/toc]
The start of the game is where you can tell which Mage you are facing. Turn one is going to tell you a lot, especially if your opponent has the coin. While a [card]Mad Scientist[/card] is not a give away, if your opponent does nothing on turn one (play or draw), or just shoots you with their hero power on turn two you want to prepare yourself for a battle with Freeze.
Freeze Mage’s only real opening cards are [card]Mad Scientist[/card] and [card]Loot Hoarder[/card]. Each of those is in the deck for their ability, but their damage can stack up over time. Clear both of those cards out with [card]Bluegill Warrior[/card].
[card]Acolyte of Pain[/card] is a very strong card against Freeze Mage and you should never hesitate to play it. Not only does it usually get more than one draw against their early minions, but in order to keep your from getting extra cards they have to burn a [card]Frostbolt[/card] on it. That may seem like a very small impact, but it is one less card they have to combo with [card]Ice Lance[/card] later on.
Do not be afraid to run out an [card]Aldor Peacekeeper[/card] here, and always try to get [card]Murloc Warleader[/card] down when you can. [card]Truesilver Champion[/card] is the only clean way to deal with [card]Acolyte of Pain[/card] from your hand. However, if your board already has a 3/3 on it, it will force Mage to hold off while also giving you a threat to get in some early hits with.
As touched upon, you really need to press for damage during these turns. Freeze Mage is a deck that will win any matchup when they are comfortable, and the only way you beat them is to take them off of their game by forcing them to worry about their health. Your full combo does twenty two damage from an empty board, but anytime you can push them into the teens to better set it up, you should. That starts here.
Building off of the above point, just run out minions and let Mage deal with them. Though you do not want to over-extend into AOE, you typically want to three minions onto the board (especially if they are murlocs). [card]Sludge Belcher[/card] is incredibly good against Freeze, as is a buffed [card]Old Murk-Eye[/card]. Remember, the point here is to bait out there removal and buy you time towards your finisher. It is highly unlikely you are going to be able to burst them down. You just want to make uncomfortable for as long as you can.
[card]Keeper of Uldaman[/card] is an extremely important card because it enables you to deal with both [card]Emeperor Thaurissan[/card] and [card]Doomsayer[/card]. While sayer wiping your board isn’t the end of the world, it gives them board priority, which can then allow them to play a lone [card]Alexstrasza[/card] or [card]Archmage Antonidas[/card]. You want to deal with it as efficiently as possible.
[toc]Late Game Strategy[/toc]
The end of the game is all going to be about playing to your combo while surviving theirs. Alexstrasza is going to come down. When that happens you need to both remove or nullify her while also getting in some healing. The best one/two punch for this [card]Antique Healbot[/card] and [card]Aldor Peacekeeper[/card]/[card]Keeper of Uldaman[/card]. However, [card]Equality[/card]/[card]Lay on Hands[/card] also works. Just make sure you have some combination of the two so you don’t just lose.
Healing, healing and more healing. While Freeze Mage has a very strong combo, they do not do well against decks that can constantly heal out of their burn range, especially if they have already used a spell or two on minions. When healing, you want to stagger it as much as possible. For instance, using one [card]Antique Healbot[/card] instead of two, and only playing a [card]Lay on Hands[/card] after their next [card]Fireball[/card] or [card]Frostbolt[/card] barrage. This limits their information, and makes it so they do not know how many spells they have to play to kill you.
Do not be afraid to drop your own [card]Doomsayer[/card] down onto an empty board. This card is going to be dead for most of the game, but you can get some value out of it by playing it to preemptively set back [card]Alexstrasza[/card] or [card]Archmage Antonidas[/card] for a turn. You can also use the card on turn nine to set up an Anyfin on turn ten.
Finally, you need to race to the first [card]Anyfin Can Happen[/card] as fast as you can. Your combo (assuming some murlocs have met a watery grave) is going to be the only real way you pop an [card]Ice Block[/card]. Once that happens, they are going to clear to buy some extra time, at which point you are going to need the next to win.
Never forget about your hero power. Even if your opponent knows you are playing murlocs, you can still get a lot of leverage out of the constant string of 1/1’s. There are many times where having just a couple on the board can force Mage to react, since they really stack up damage. There is going to be a lot of down time in this matchup, and you want to summon a recruit as often as you can.